Today was the big day – starting the West Highland Way. However, there were some things to sort out before I could start. First, a stop at GO Outdoors to get some trouser twists for me and a tent for Scott. Then I discovered that my phone was locked to my Australian network provider. It wouldn’t even work with a UK SIM from the same company! Grrrrrr. So then it was a search for the cheapest phone I could find, made slightly more complicated by me demanding a micro USB charging port! In the end I got a lovely little Samsung (just phone and text, . . no camera, internet etc) which I think was only about £20.
We then made our way to Milgnavie (“mull-guy”) to find the start of the Way. My pack was heavier than I’d like (isn’t it always!) but comfortable and sitting well. We set off at about 11am, about an hour behind schedule. You can see a picture of me setting off here. Given my history of getting lost at the start of walks I thought this would be the hardest bit of navigation I’d have to do the whole trip but luckily the path was very well signposted and easy to follow. It went straight into a small section of woods, along a babbling brook on good dirt paths, then meandered through a mixture of open fields and woods, past lochans and streams, with mostly dirt paths and some short stretches of road walking. There were heaps of people and dogs out in the early section (in town) though we soon left them behind and had the track primarily to ourselves after that. We passed one girl later on who was hiking with her Jack Russell – he was just trotting along happily about an inch behind her heels!
In the early afternoon we took a slight detour to the Glengoyne Distillery. We had just missed a tour and I didn’t want to wait 45 minutes for the next one – we were already much later than I’d planned to be and I was worried we wouldn’t get to my planned campsite for the night. Instead of the tour, we joined in on a tasting instead! We tried the 12, 15, 18 and 22 year old, plus the cask strength . . . and then got a special tasting of the “Teapot dram”. This is named from when the workers used to have some of the whisky at the end of the day, . . but they weren’t actually allowed to be drinking so they’d pour it into teacups so it looked like the last bits of a cup of tea! I actually got to drink this from the tea cup! The 12, 18 and cask strength were my favourites. Scott bought a bottle . . . which managed to make his pack for 1 day heavier than my pack for 8 days!
We headed off again, . . and luckily the path was still clearly marked as that much whisky had had some effect on me! On our way out of the distillery a car honked madly at us then did a U-turn and pulled over. It was a guy Scott knows from Durness who had recognised him and was very surprised to see him walking along the road so far from home! Small world!
We were thinking of stopping at Dumgoyne for lunch but walked past it before realising that it was there so just pushed on. We arrived in Drymen at about 5pm and stopped at the Ptarmigan Inn for dinner (and beer).
After a leisurely dinner we headed off again, following the road directly up to Garadhban Forest, rather than detouring back to the WHW.
We followed a lower path for a while through a section of forest that had been logged, giving us good views of the start of Loch Lomond.
Then we were back up into the forest to find a campsite for the night. After turning down a few options, we found an amazing campsite just before the end of the forest, set up camp then sat on a fallen pine and watched the sun go down over Loch Lomond with a few drams of whisky.
Not too many photos today, or interesting stories – walking with someone takes the focus off the hiking a bit. I think I turned my tracker off at the distillery and forgot to turn it on again until Drymen, so don’t have a complete track or distance for today. Also, I haven’t sorted out a good way of displaying my course yet so apologies for this picture. I’ll try to sort an interactive map in the future.
Also, if you have any requests for the posts (more photos, less photos, less rambling, more funny stories), please let me know so I can improve the reading experience for you in the future! I haven’t tried to put too much detail of the WHW itself – if you want a step by step description you can read that at http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/west-highland-way.shtml